Lord Thomas of Gresford QC for Lib - Dems slams War criminal Jack Straw's proposals on witness anonymity
On the BBC4 World at One Martha Carney interviewed Lord Thomas of Gresford QC (Wrexham Grammar School , Peterhouse, Cambridge) who is the Liberal Democrat Shadow Attoney General (and all round good egg) who said , concerning the Second Reading of the Fraud (Trials Without Jury) Bill in the House of Lords - which sought to introduce trials without Juries in fraud cases ...
" These proposals must have come from a Home Office official who has never set foot in a criminal court, backed by the Government legal establishment who regard the participation of ordinary people in the criminal justice system as unhelpful."
"The Government is well aware of the outrage within the legal profession, whose job it is to ensure fair trials. There is also a lot of hostility from the general public."
He had previously stated for the Lib - Dems "..., we shall maintain our determination to oppose any attempt by the Government, now or later, to abolish juries in such cases all together."
Lord Gresford has pointed out elsewhere that we have provisions in place which enable a court to sit in camera, and to take evidence from officers of the security services in the presence of the accused and his advisers, but behind screens and that he has prosecuted men accused of letter-bombing in such circumstances.
Questioned about the still undocumented proposals by Jack Straw for witness anonymity , and speaking as a practising barrister he made the immensely powerful point ( which it has to be said had not been fully appreciated by Lord Patel's extensive legal staff) that the practice of introducing anonymous witnesses in crimial trials arose directly and especially in London (i.e the Met viz Commander Yates and his Trident gang desperate for results and an improved clear up rate ) proffering anonymity to witnesses as part of the evidence gathering process by the police...."If you grass up on blokey you will of course remain anonymous etc., ...".
Lord Thomas had recently defended a man in London who faced 5 witnesses, all unknown , unnamed, unseen, with voices distorted and so he was incapable of providing any sort of sensible cross examination as to the credibility of the witnesses or the authenticity of their evidence.
Martha also previously interviewed a Scottish lawyer (Niall ?) who explained under the Scottish system, witnesses could be anonymous in court with the judges discretion, (and rarely) but only in certain cases where the witness provided evidence as a representative of an evidence source , secret services, HMRC etc., and not in a personal capacity as in a criminal case.
Lord Thomas's vigorous and evident resistance did not suggest as the report in the Daily Mail today that their support in the House was stitched up - but of course if the Opposition agree that will not matter.
War criminal Jack Straw was interviewed , he continued to push the line that this concern about witness intimidation was something previously unknown.
Lord Gresford in the Guradian November 26th 2001 on the Terrorism Act 2000 et seq is required reading for folks interested in such matters as the maintenance of habeas corpus and the 38th article of Magna Carta, 1215: ...."In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, with out producing credible witnesses to the truth of it."
UPDATE 6.30 BST : Sir Ken Macdonald QC took up his post as Head of the CPS and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in November 2003 and was ibterviewed on the BBC 4 PM programme and explained that he couldn't give figures on the number of prosecution which might be affected by the David Judgement and was waiting or reports from the CPS's 42 regional offices.
David Howarth the lack lustre Liberal shadow Solicitor General (ex Clare College and Yale Law School ) appeared to support with reservations the proposed legislation that war criminal Jack Straw wanted tio rush through the House of Commons in one day. Evidently he has not had a chat with his colleague Lord Thomas of Gresford QC Liberal Democrat Shadow Attoney General and sits as a Lib Dem in the House of Lords.
How unusual for the Lib Dems to have such confusion in their ranks on policy about anything.